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StreetWise Supporters Demonstrate at Board Meeting

As the StreetWise board of directors gathered Tuesday evening, members of the editorial staff, vendors and over 50 of their supporters demonstrated outside the paper's offices on S. Michigan Ave to denounce the recent retaliatory firings and censorship at the publication.
As the StreetWise board of directors gathered Tuesday evening, members of the editorial staff, vendors and over 50 of their supporters demonstrated outside the paper's offices on S. Michigan Ave to denounce the recent retaliatory firings and censorship at the publication.

On Jan. 12 and Feb. 6 respectively, Editor in Chief Jalyne Strong and Associate Editor Kari Lyderson, Commentary Editor John Wilson, Production Chief Allen Gomez and writer and vendor Rayford Allen were fired. Just prior to being discharged all five staff members submitted letters of grievance to the board of directors charging that StreetWise's Executive Director Anthony Oliver engages in finical mismanagement, abuses the staff and a lacks consideration for the vendors.

When it became obvious that the Feb. 12 edition of StreetWise could not be produced without the editorial staff, Ms. Lyderson, Mr. Wilson, Mr. Gomez and Mr. Allen were rehired. Ms. Strong was not.

At the direction of the board Mr. Oliver was to have "no say in the paper and no contact with the editorial staff." Feb. 8, as Mr. Gomez left the StreetWise offices on with the Feb. 12 edition of the paper, Mr. Oliver took the files from him and proceeded to delete an editorial about the recent events at StreetWise.

"I give up on him at this point," Karen Harris, a StreetWise supporter said Tuesday.

All the staff who were rehired Feb. 8 are still at work this week. The staff, however, continually stresses the instability of their employment with StreetWise.

"We need this city to get behind us and support us," StreetWise vendor Devin Nealy said.

StreetWise vendors, Chicago's homeless and poor, sell the paper as means of finical support. To ensure the vendors had a product to sell, the staff agreed to return to work Feb. 8 without any guarantee they would be employed Monday.

The vendors, however, are polarized in their opinion of Mr. Oliver.

Mr. Wilson said that most of the vendors are uninformed of the current situation and that Mr. Oliver is rallying them against the staff.

"[Mr. Oliver's] had his opportunity to present his case before the vendors and we have been limited in presenting ours," Mr. Allen said.

"Anthony Oliver brought us a mighty long way," vendor Tyron Raymon said Tuesday.

A source who refused to be named said that Mr. Oliver is telling the vendors that the staff is trying to take over the paper, make it a socialist/communist paper and are generally "snakes in the grass."

"Constant lies," Mr. Nealy said of Mr. Oliver's discussions about the situation with vendors. "He promotes a 'comfortability' that he cares about us, but he doesn't. He doesn't give a shit about us."

"You out their writing for him and trying to tear the paper down," Mr. Raymond said, "I will support Anthony Oliver all the way."

"Why don't you hold some signs up saying 'Keep Becker in Jail for killing' instead of talking bout this," vendor Francine Phillips said, referring to the former Chicago police officer Gregory Becker who shot and killed StreetWise vendor Joseph Gould in 1995 and was recently released from prison.

When told that the people protesting support the vendors, Ms. Phillips said, "Oh, ok, ok."

Minuets later she was arguing with Mr. Nealy about who's shoulders bear blame for the current situation at StreetWise.

"I just don't want a rock! I just don't want a wine. I just don't want some dope. I just don't want some dope, I want some hope! I want a way out of this, sister," Mr. Nealy said.

"I'm tired, I'm sick and I want a change. We can be a lot more than we are now," he said.

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